NYC Climate Strike Brought Thousands of Protesters, Draws Both Criticism and Praise
Chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go” and “planet over profit” started up and faded away intermittently, as the few people who hadn’t yet congregated in Foley Square trickled in from the shade of nearby awnings and scaffolding.
The NYC Sept. 20 climate strike was officially under way. By 1 p.m., marchers in the front of the crowd had begun making their way down to Battery Park, where Greta Thunberg would give a speech ahead of her participation in the UN climate summit this week. The atmosphere was determined and defiant.
“I think it’s really important for the children to be coming out and showing that this is something that’s really important to us, because it’s going to affect our future more than anybody else’s,” Mara Matthews, a sophomore at the High School of Art and Design told Scriberr News.
The crowd was filled with groups of school friends, chattering excitedly and waving hand-made signs, while adults and families with young kids, some in strollers, some on the shoulders of parents, made up the rest. People used their signs to block the midday sun, and drum beats in the distance sounded continuously.
For the Sept. 20 strikes, New York City allowed public school students to be excused from school to participate in the strikes as long as they were given parental permission. According to students, this had a large impact on the amount of people who showed up.
“I know people a couple months ago in my class who didn’t go because it wasn’t allowed, or their parents disapproved of it, because the state didn’t allow it, and so I think that now that there’s an approval to it, it gives certain people more liberty to join the movement,” said Julie Drahmani, a senior at the Lycée Français de New York.
But despite the city’s lenient policy for students, teachers were not encouraged to attend the rally, to the dismay of many, and were forced to take personal days if they wished to attend.
“I actually told the principal either I take a personal day and attend and represent the kids or I get a riot together and empty the classes and get everybody out to the football field and we’ll do something for climate, and he chose the first,” Bernadette Kuti, a middle school science teacher in Long Island told Scriberr News.
The New York City climate strike is estimated by organizers to have drawn 250,000 people, while the mayor’s office claims the number is closer to 60,000. This strike was one of thousands around the world, with organizers estimating that four million people attended marches worldwide.
Friday school strikes have been happening around the world for more than a year, but Sept. 20 marks what is likely to be the largest climate strike in history. With this strike, students and adults alike are hoping to catch the attention of people in power, but they remain skeptical that the government, or even individual politicians, will take the sort of actions they are advocating for.
“It’s even more frustrating because the fact that we have to do this in the first place, like, they should have listened to us the first 50,000 times, that this is an issue and it needs to be addressed,” Erika Ahlman, a sophomore at the High School of Art and Design told Scriberr News. “It’s frustrating, because no one is listening.”
And no one in the crowd was under the impression that this one strike could change the world. Parents and students made it clear that they were in it for the long haul, and had no expectations that success would come quickly or at all.
“I think accomplishing everything that needs to be done is a long road, and this needs to keep going until, I don’t know what that end mark is, honestly,” said Hephzibah Grossberndt, the parent of a Stony Brook college student.
While some of the messages expressed in the march were political – signs read “Green New Deal or GTFO” and “For the earth to live capitalism must end”—most people seemed eager to continue to raise awareness and make their thoughts on climate change known.
“I was inspired by Greta Thunberg to show up, march, and, I don’t know, people need to know that young people do care, and that we are concerned about our future,” Samara Khab, a Vassar College student told Scriberr News.
WHAT THE LEFT IS SAYING: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio: “These kids have the smarts, the courage and the heart to fight Global Warming. What they need is for leaders in Washington to have their backs.”
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) September 21, 2019
WHAT THE RIGHT IS SAYING: Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz: “MUST-READ: ‘How conservatives in Florida can get in the game on renewable energy.’”
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) September 20, 2019